We find an account of the person and ministry of the Rev. Dr. James Mcmullen Crowell for our post on This Day in Presbyterian History, courtesy of the Encyclopaedia of the Presbyterian Church, by Alfred Nevin (1884). And in that volume, we are told that Dr. Crowell was born on June 9, 1827 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of a druggist and apothecary shop owner.
Nevin doesn’t give us much in the matter of his early years in either the home or the church, but there must have been a commitment to the Presbyterian church at some time. He attended the College of New Jersey in 1848, graduating fourth in a class of eighty students. He taught for one year at West Chester Academy after graduating, but soon found his next training at Princeton Theological Seminary, graduating in 1851. His faculty during his student days were Archibald Alexander, Charles Hodge, James Addison Alexander, James Waddel Alexander, and William Henry Green. With spiritual mentors like these, he would be adequately trained for this life calling of the pastorate.
For six years, Rev. Crowell served the Lord as pastor of the Upper Octorora Presbyterian Church in present day Parkesburg, Pennsylvania. Nevin says that “he was greatly loved by the congregation and prospered in his labors.” Note: The readers of Today have one of the early buildings of this congregation in the heading of these posts.
Continuing his pastorate, James Crowell served for twelve years as pastor of Seventh Presbyterian Church in his home town of Philadelphia. Again it was stated that he labored there as the preacher and pastor of the flock with great fidelity.
Two years were spent at St Peter’s Presbyterian Church in Rochester, New York, where his spiritual labors were once again blessed by the Lord.
His last pastorate, from 1870 – 1882, was again taken up in his home town of Philadelphia, at the Woodlawn Presbyterian Church, where he was described as being faithful in labor, and beloved by his flock.
What stands out to this author is that here we have a man of God committed to his pastoral calling, faithful, and as a result, fruitful in souls. He was universally loved by the people of the Lord in these Presbyterian congregations.
Nevin concludes his treatment of James Crowell by stating that “he was a cultivated gentleman, an exemplary Christian, a good preacher, and highly esteemed by all who knew him.” (p. 167)
Words to Live By:
To those followers of This Day in Presbyterian History whttps://ia800303.us.archive.org/34/items/memorialofwillia00crow/memorialofwillia00crow.pdfho are called to be pastors of the flock of God, our post today on James Crowell stands out as an exemplary undershepherd who obviously loved the Word of God, preached it in its fullness to the hearts and minds of the people of God in Presbyterian churches, and most importantly, lived its eternal principles and practices before the watching world. Oh for teaching elders today to have his zeal for the God’s Word in their present ministries.
To read Rev. Crowell’s funeral sermon for ruling elder William S. Martien, click here. It was Martien, together with his brother Alfred, who was so prominent in the publication of literally scores of 19th-century Presbyterian classics.